Thursday, January 13, 2022

Book 318: Delirium


"Love: a single word, a wispy thing, a word no bigger or longer than an edge. That’s what it is: an edge; a razor. It draws up through the center of your life, cutting everything in two. Before and after. The rest of the world falls away on either side."

Dates read: May 29- June 3, 2019

Rating: 5/10

In a way, I wish I'd had my first serious relationship in high school. I had some big crushes then, but didn't fall in love for the first time until I was in college. It was an often dramatic relationship, and without much experience of dating, I had no idea how to really manage my feelings. Which meant that I usually let important things, like my social life with my friends and school itself, take the hit while I was trying to figure it out. I survived, I learned, but I think having had less at stake while I was floundering around would have been a better case scenario.

There have to be more songs written about love than about anything else. Love of family, love of country, and most of all good old fashioned romance. It's a powerful force, which is why the leadership of the society in Lauren Oliver's Delirium has sought to outlaw it, defining it as a disease to be avoided and/or cured. They've developed an operation (basically a lobotomy) that divorces people from their emotions, and Lena can't wait to have it. Her mother had refused the procedure and died by her own hand when Lena and her older sister were young, leaving them alone in the world, to be raised by their aunt and uncle. Lena's sister has had the procedure, is married, has a child and a normal life...just what Lena wants for herself. She's always afraid of putting even a toe out of line and drawing negative attention, so even though her wealthy and beautiful best friend Hana rebels in small ways, Lena stays on the straight and narrow. But on the day Lena is to be evaluated to determine her future, she meets Alex, and everything changes.

Alex, it turns out, is an Invalid...he did not have the procedure performed, and though he's disguised himself so he can "pass" in normal society unsuspected, his true home is the area outside the border fence, called the Wilds. Despite her fear of falling in love and developing the deliria, Lena is drawn to Alex, and as they continue to spend time together she begins to fall for him. She tries to continue towards the normality she's always craved, but as the date of her operation draws nearer, she's less and less sure that she wants it after all. And when a secret about her family is revealed, she knows she can't stay. But how do you escape from a police state?

It often seems that teenage-girl oriented young adult lit has a pattern: a vulnerable heroine, a totalitarian regime in a dystopian future, a love story. And there's a reason for's an appealing story structure! I sometimes regret a little that I grew up in a time before the real YA boom, because I would have read and relished so many of these kinds of books. As an adult, though, there starts to be a same-y quality to reading them. One of the ways Oliver sets this one apart is that the person who seems like the "typical" heroine, the high-spirited Hana, is just the best friend. Lena herself is quiet, introverted, fearful. It's not a personality type that usually gets to play a starring role, and I think that'll be appreciated by the less-assertive girls who read this and get to see themselves reflected on the page as capable of daring and bravery.

Despite some bright spots, this was still too formulaic for my personal tastes. It's engaging, though, without being especially intellectually demanding, so it would be great for a reader looking for something like a beach or airplane read, or who simply doesn't have a lot of extra mental energy for a book and just wants to be entertained. There are sequels, but I wasn't invested enough in the world Oliver created to feel like I need to pick them up despite the cliffhanger ending. If you're looking for something immersive or complex, this isn't for you. Otherwise, keep your expectations reasonable and this could be a pleasant, easy reading experience!

One year ago, I was reading: Go Went Gone

Two years ago, I was reading: Queen of Scots

Three years ago, I was reading: Astonish Me

Four years ago, I was reading: Ghost Wars

Five years ago, I was reading: Americanah

Six years ago, I was reading: Approval Junkie

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